Compost Tea: Liquid Gold Or Waste Of Time

Making Compost Tea

Compost tea. Made from steeping finished compost in water, has been promoted as a great source of both nutrients and pest controlling microbes for plants. The theory is that the components of solid compost, which does contain both beneficial plant nutrients and living microbes, can be extracted into water. Much like making teas from dried herbs.

Sounds great.  Concentrated liquid compost that can be used  as a soil drench or a foliar spray on plant leaves.  Feeds and protects plants from pest and disease.

There is aerated compost tea, where the use of a pump introduces oxygen to the mix.  This is to encourage microbe growth in the brewing tea. … Read On

Tips For Growing Vegetables From Seed

Germinating Seed

I start most all of my vegetables from seed.  And over the years I’ve come to recognize that, without some additional care and handling, scattering a pack of 100 vegetable seeds into the ground can result in anywhere from 5 to 50 little sproutlings.  And by scattering I mean carefully laying them out in my perfect dirt in perfect little rows.  But still, in the early days of the Bell Back 400, my direct seed germination rates were shockingly low.

But I learned.

And this was not just an issue related to direct seeding.  I also came to realize that it’s disappointing to set out 25 seeded starter pots under grow lights, and get maybe 12 sprouted seedlings out of the batch.… Read On

Making Herbal Tinctures: Some Tips To Remember

Dandelion Roots For Herbal Tincture

I was cutting up my latest batch of freshly pulled dandelion roots to make a batch of herbal tinctures, when it occurred to me that it has taken quite a bit of trial and error for me to get my tincturing process to produce optimal medicinal herbal extracts.  And yes, I know that in some of the herbal references, an herbal extract can be different than an herbal tincture.  But here I am referring to the soaking of herbs (dried or fresh) in some liquid medium to extract the medicinal compounds so that they mix with the liquid and become what is known as a tincture.… Read On

My Lawn Is A Salad Bar: Three Healthy Weeds

Healthy Weed Purslane

I decided to adopt an organic lawn treatment program this year.  So, no pre-emergents, no weed killing pesticides and no artificial kick-start fertilizers.

My lawn consist of a mix of Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses.  Now that warm weather has hit, the St. Augustine is starting to green up.  But the Bermuda is still waiting for hotter weather and is relatively dormant.

Even so, there are still patches of green in the brown, dormant Bermuda grass.  And it’s driving my wife crazy.  Normally she would be out there with a spray bottle of Round Up spot killing all the little weeds that are popping up. … Read On

Spring Break In The Desert

Driving Up Mt. Lemon

Spring break for the kids.  Family vacation.  So we packed up the car and headed to visit family and friends in Arizona.  With stops in El Paso, Texas and New Mexico along the way.

This is a very different trip than our usual summer vacation with the east coast side of the family in Ponte Vedra, Fla.  That getaway is all about the beach, scuba diving and eating great, fresh seafood.

This vacation is going to be about majestic scenery, hiking, mountain biking and learning about edible gardening in the desert climates.  I’m also planning on a couple of side trips to visit noted herbal practitioners in the area. … Read On

The Benefits Of Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Garden Bed

When we built out the Bell Back 400 suburban garden, the existing patch of lawn where it was to go in was removed and the soil underneath was tilled and amended to about 12 inches in depth.  We discovered that the lower soil layers were a mix of clay and builder’s junk dirt, so I heavily amended with compost and other soil additives to begin the process of providing a healthy home for beneficial soil organisms.  After all, the key to growing healthy food is to grow healthy soil.

Once the soil was amended, I had a garden plot of good planting soil down to a depth of about a foot. … Read On

Salsa In A Box: Adding Some Heat To The Garden

Salsa Peppers

Before I built out the Bell Back 400, I used to plant my veggies in EarthBoxes.  They are great for container gardening and really got me going on the road to suburban farming.  But now that I am focusing on in ground growing, a stack of lonely EarthBoxes sits in our back yard.  I have given some away, but at the beginning of every spring, I swear to myself that I will use some of the boxes for trying new herbs and leafy green vegetables.

This year I am going to salvage a couple of the EarthBoxes and put together a salsa garden. … Read On

Five Edible Gardening Mistakes I Have Made

Gardening Mistakes

I learned alot about farming and gardening from my grandparents.  I spent my summers as a kid wandering the farmland they owned outside of Athens, Ga.  In addition to growing their own crops of apples, peaches, lettuce and other assorted vegetables, they leased some of the other pastures to a farmer who raised cattle and grew larger crops such as corn and wheat.  And don’t even get me started about the stuff that grew wild across the property.  Blueberries, blackberries, persimmons and muscadines were just there for the picking.

Unfortunately, in the years since and before I started growing my own food and medicine, I must have forgotten much of what I learned back then. … Read On

Growing Chinese Herbs In Texas: Jiaogulan

Chinese Adaptogenic Herb Jiaogulan

We have talked about the key to growing “medicinal herbs” that are truly medicinal.  It is all about the growing environment and how closely it resembles the conditions the plants natively flourish in.  The medicinal compounds in an herb typically develop from the plant’s reaction to the combination of soil conditions, sun and water exposure and other environmental stimuli.  These environmental stimuli can be as varied as local toxin levels (pesticides, air pollution, etc) to wind conditions.

When I set out to start growing medicinal herbs, I did alot of research into figuring out which herbs might do well natively here in North Texas. … Read On